Methland

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Confession: I didn’t read this book.

Methland by Nick Reding
Methland by Nick Reding

Now before you shun me for not being a good book reflection blogger, let me defend and clarify my confession a little. I read half of this book, and fully intend to finish it eventually. However, this ended up being a much heavier book than anticipated and I have had to read it in smaller chunks to be able to fully process the information.

Several months ago, I read a memoir written by a mother and daughter about the daughter’s heroin addiction, and how beating that addiction both strained and strengthened their relationship in different ways. While I knew the content of this book would be different because it was looking at the town of Oelwein, Iowa instead of the lives of one family, I did not anticipate how much more emotionally draining it would be to read the many snapshots painted by Reding in this book.

This book gives an up-close look at how meth pulls apart the lives of those who use it.

Meth is so unlike any other drug. While other addictions may seem treatable and beatable, through the stories of the people of Oelwein an image appeared of a drug that has an addictive quality that is invincible. One woman built a drug empire and after years clean in prison, went back to those same drugs upon release. Another addict, though his skin and flesh melted off in a chemical fire while disposing of evidence of his meth lab, went back to meth after getting out of the hospital and jail. Though one addict in the book was nine months clean and living with parents desperate to help him stay that way, there was fear from everyone (including himself) that he would go back to using meth. No matter how long they were clean or what circumstances faced them, those held under the grip of meth addiction seemed powerless to fight the high that meth gave to them.

“His job was increasingly directed by the belief that in solving the town’s economic dilemma, the drug problem, too, would abate. That was the hope, anyway. On another level, meth seemed to operate completely outside the bounds of any rational, calculated variables.”

Nick Reding

The reason this was a difficult book to read was because I love a meth addict.

Despite the fact meth has taken a toll on his physical and mental health, someone I love continues to use the drug he has used for years. He is the main reason that I was interested in reading this book. I was searching for understanding, and on some level I found it. Although I still see meth as a nasty drug because of all of the side effects that come with it, meth gives the addict energy and euphoria that cannot be compared to anything else. At one point in our nation’s history, a form of it was legal because of the way it allowed people to work longer and harder. It was marketed as a weight loss drug. The fact it makes people feel good is undeniable. And for a while, at least, it allows them to work more (which is why it is so popular among the working class).

This book gave me the glimpse into meth addiction that I needed to both understand my loved one’s addiction and understand that there was very little that I could do to motivate him to quit the drug. While a non-addicted person or a person addicted to something less mind-altering may have responded to my pleas to get clean differently, it has been good for me to better understand the immensity of the burden of those fighting meth addiction. In reading about the addict who was nine months clean and living with his parents, one quote stuck out to me: “For Major, waiting to see what price his son would pay for his transgressions was a daily reminder of why he had to stay straight. But his anxiety and guilt were also an hourly motivation to get high.” A person recovering from addiction has to want to stay straight more than they want to drown out the anxiety and guilt.

While I like to believe that if I were faced with an addiction I would stop using whatever addictive substance if a loved one asked. After slightly better understanding exactly what addiction, especially addiction to meth does to a person, I’m not entirely sure what I would do. In the grips of addiction, I doubt I would be strong enough to get clean alone. I am increasingly convinced that only God can help someone break the bonds of addiction.

Into the Deep

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I came upon this absolutely heartbreaking, yet inspirational memoir while browsing through The Ohio Digital Library. I am drawn toward stories that have that “Investigation Discovery” feel. Even though it was a natural disaster that claimed the family of Robert Rogers and not human actions, I think it’s the same interest that drew me to this book.

Into the Deep by Robert Rogers with Stan Finger
Into the Deep by Robert Rogers with Stan Finger

While driving back home from a family member’s wedding, flash flooding caused the road to be covered in water. Robert’s wife, Melissa, was driving and was too deep into the water to turn back by the time they realized they were in it. The cars in front of them were passing through fine and they were boxed in with cars behind them, unable to stop. Meanwhile, it continued to rain and the water continued to flow across the road, getting deeper.

The water began to fill the car, waking up their four children, who became frightened. A man came to the window to try to offer them help, but was swept away by the water. When they seemed to have no other option because they were not moving through the water, Robert kicked out the passenger side window, and he and his oldest daughter were sucked out of the car and into the water. He and his wife had planned to swim to the surface and try to save their children, but he fought just to stay alive and ended up on the embankment bruised and scraped. He made it to the emergency response teams and pleaded for help for his family. They transported him to the hospital after seeing no sign of his family.

At the hospital, he was informed that his four children were dead and his wife could not be found. Three days and a press conference later, when the water had receded, they found her body as well. His family, the hospital staff, and the people of his city poured out an amazing amount of love and support for him during his grief. The rest of the book reflects on the years he had with his family and the process of grieving their loss and giving glory to God despite the pain.

Robert Rogers is a beautiful example of grieving with grace.

I really enjoyed this book. I have not cried so hard reading anything in such a long time. Nearly every few chapters made me burst out in tears, feeling so appreciative of what I have. Repeatedly throughout the pages, Rogers wrote that throughout his grieving and discussions with others, he wanted to make sure that people came to know God better and appreciate their loved ones more. He accomplished that in my reading of the book.

“I heard so many times from so many people, ‘God never gives you more than you can handle.’ I eventually came to believe that ‘God will always give you more than you can bear alone, because He doesn’t want you to bear it without Him.’ Alone, this cross was unbearable. But with God, it was possible.”

Robert Rogers

Timing is always crazy. Mount Vernon had flash flood warnings the week I was reading this book, so I felt especially emotional. Before the flash flood warnings, though, my husband and I were driving to and from Columbus for a date in very heavy rain, and I kept thinking about what I had been reading. I soaked in every moment of that date night and have been intentional in taking every moment I can to tell him that I love him. Though no one wants to think about it, you never know when something as unexpected as a rain storm could take away those you love.

A Girl Named Faithful Plum

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I picked up this charming and inspirational biography at the last minute when I realized that the book I had planned for this week’s post wasn’t going to work because it had too much graphic content for me. Though this book was an impulsive read, it was also an enjoyable one, especially compared to what I had been reading.

A Girl Named Faithful Plum by Richard Bernstein
A Girl Named Faithful Plum by Richard Bernstein

This book covers the journey of young Zhongmei Li from a rural part of China all the way to an open audition in the Beijing Dance Academy, and into her first year as a dance student there. Although the reader knows that she will make it through each trial she faces and become a famous and talented dancer, everything that young Zhongmei faces is so unbelievable that it seems that she won’t make it through.

One of the most amazing parts of this book was that Zhongmei’s journey started at the age of eleven. At such a young age, she traveled across the country, away from her family, to pursue her dream. She then worked harder than many adults (myself included) do to achieve her dream.

Zhongmei Li’s tale is one that inspires hope and hard work.

I found Zhongmei’s spirit and determination absolutely inspirational. Even though there were times where she felt like she was going to be kicked out of school for being one of the worst dancers, she did not let that stop her. Instead, she woke up early and practiced harder. She worked harder than her peers and ended up being one of the most famous dancers in China, eventually traveling to the United States where she met her husband, the author of this book.

My only complaint about this book is that it ended. I would have loved to have had such an in-depth look at the other years of her education, as well as her career and how she met and fell in love with her husband, Richard Bernstein. From the “About the Author” section, I know they also have a child together. Though her first year ended up having a happy ending, I would have loved to hear about the rest of her life.

This book was a nice light read, especially after something as heavy as The Girl Behind the Door from last week. Even though it had its tense moments, it had a happy ending and those tense moments often ended up working out in Zhongmei’s favor. It was hopeful, inspirational, and a feel-good read.

The Girl Behind the Door

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I was browsing the biography section of The Ohio Digital Library when I came upon this book. It looked interesting, so I put it on hold and thought nothing else of it for a couple more months, until it showed up in my email account as available.

The Girl Behind the Door by John Brooks
The Girl Behind the Door by John Brooks

John Brooks wrote the heart-wrenching story of traveling overseas to bring home a baby girl who was unhealthy from not receiving the care and attention she needed to raising a troubled teenager who would eventually end her life by stepping off of the Golden Gate Bridge. Brooks shared in painful detail the signs he only saw after the fact of her struggle to find her place in the world, and a diagnosis the he would only find after her death to be attachment disorder.

This book broke my heart because of my desire to foster children.

In his writing about attachment disorder and how it impacted his daughter’s ability to love and feel loved, Brooks explained that many children who are adopted are impacted by this disorder. Even children who are adopted very young, like his daughter Casey, have this overwhelming feeling that they are undesirable and that no one could ever love or want them. They struggle to build deep or lasting attachments, and often act out in burst of anger or emotion. It is an absolutely haunting condition to imagine anyone going through, especially one you have chosen to bring into your home to love and care for.

I will not even pretend to know what that feels like because I have never been adopted and I have do not have many friends who were. However, my husband have known for several years that we wanted to at the very least foster children with the possibility of adopting them. Casey was not just one case of the grief caused by attachment disorder. So many children are suffering and need to be loved and cared for by people who are not going to hurt them. While there is a part of me that feels overwhelmed and not good enough for such a task, I know that some day my husband and I may come to love one such child. Maybe even more.

The number of people who jump of of bridges is heartbreaking.

It surprised and saddened me that so many people use bridges like the Golden Gate to commit suicide. At the time the book was written, about thirty people a year jumped off that bridge to die. There is a project underway, due to be completed in 2019, to build a barrier to try to prevent these kind of acts. That may prevent people from jumping from bridges, but it does not deal with the pain that makes them jump.

I am not entirely sure what to make of this book after reading it. I feel more aware. I feel more heartbroken. But I do not know what to do about it except to love those around me better than I did before. One of them could be hurting and I wouldn’t even know it. I do not want to have to come aware of a loved one’s suffering only when it is too late.